After the Jan. 22 shooting incident at Italy High School, superintendent Lee Joffre has focused on two emergency aspects, prevention and response to better protect his students.
Joffre is in the midst of purchasing security equipment and technology as well as creating a culture of “see it, hear it, report it.”
“We are in an education business, and we have to protect these kids,” Joffre expressed. “We are going to continue to take steps and other measures that other districts are looking at or implementing. But we have to make sure that we have the implantation capabilities and that what we are doing makes sense with the end result."
On the response side of emergency preparedness, Joffre purchased the application "Navigate Prepared." This app links student rosters with the student information system that tracks students’ locations during an emergency. Teachers can even account for students who are added to the classroom but not yet on the roster.
“On Jan. 22, we hadn’t taken attendance yet, and we had no way of identifying who was there and who wasn’t. So we went to paper and started identifying students in the dome and called every parent,” Joffre said.
Joffre explained that — through the app — administrators can communicate with all staff during emergencies. The app also functions without internet access and communicates with police.
Though local police departments already have access to school camera footage, with this technology, police are equipped with a floor plan of where the cameras are located.
Law enforcement officers simply have to hover over the camera icon on the interactive map, and it will display a live stream. The technology also includes 360-degree photos.
Joffre mentioned teachers currently do not have phones in the classroom but added the phone and public announcement system will be updated.
“They will interface the phones with the public address system so teachers from their classroom would be able to initiate an emergency response by punching in the right code,” Joffre explained.
Joffre has also purchased three hand-held metal detectors and will implement random checks at both campuses. The Italy ISD Board of Trustees will vote on a policy update in the handbook during the April school board meeting.
He will also purchase between 55-60 Barracuda barricade devices for every classroom in the district that work on inward and outward swinging doors.
A representative with the Barracuda company will be on campus April 9 to measure the door frames.
Also, Italy ISD will add two more panic buttons on each campus. Right now there is only one panic button at each school, located by the front doors.
Joffre also hired a crisis counselor, Natalie Barrett, March 30, who will work from the elementary campus while the current counselor will office from the high school. He mentioned a school district the size of IISD is required to only have one councilor.
“Maggie Westrick [current councilor] is moving in the high school so she can continue to serve the kids that she has already built these relationships with,” Joffre added. “We want to start helping and identifying kids in our community who may identify with mental illness.”
Representatives with the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Waco are setting up professional development for teachers in August for an extensive, one-day training.
The program will teach educators how to identify symptoms of mental illness. Once classes begin in the fall, teachers will educate their students on mental illness as well. Through the counselor’s leadership, they will continue the discussion of mental illness with students throughout the year.
“If you suffer from mental illness and a school can help them get services, we are going to do that. Cause they need to identify that mental illness could be similar to a physical illness. You find help, and you find a way to treat that,” Joffre elaborated.
He added, “Something I’m trying to do with the principals is to create a culture of if you see it, hear it, report it. What we really want to do is teach the students the importance of discussion about violence. Our kids should not feel as though they’ll get in trouble for reporting something even if it turns out not to be true. They should feel comfortable coming to us.”
Joffre is also creating a Superintendent Advisory Council for seventh through 12th graders. He is currently taking applications from sixth through 11th graders and is looking for students to attend meetings with their own agenda items. Discussions won’t solely be about school safety, but that is a frequent topic for the students, Joffre said. The council will be like a student council without the service piece but will develop leadership opportunities.
Also in the 2018-19 school year, the school calendar will include five days dedicated to discussing school safety on a broad spectrum. Teachers and students will perform emergency drills, specific training, including practicing an evacuation and possibly a reunification.
Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450